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Investigating the 'Goodness' of Pickleball

Breaking down the practicality, incentive and accessibility of sports.

April 08 2024

Upon reading the title, some questions may have immediately (and understandably) popped into your head. What deems a sport to be “good?” How does the “goodness” of pickleball compare to other sports? What does it have going for it and against it?

Well, highly inquisitive reader, I’m here to offer some answers. Judging how “good” an activity is means to evaluate the practicality, accessibility, and incentive for playing that given sport. For example, let’s assess how “good” golf is.

Let’s start with golf as a completely and entirely impractical sport. The player-by-field ratio is as bad as it gets, with each golfer or golfing group accounting for hundreds of yards at a time. On top of that, having to wait hole after hole if you’re scheduled behind a slow golfer can extend an extra hour of anticipation for your round.

Golf is also a rather inaccessible sport. Sure, there are greens all over the nation but since each player needs so much space, you almost always have to reserve green time beforehand. Golf is also inaccessible for the high prices associated with the sport. Reservations almost always come with a price, and the bags and sticks needed to play are each hundreds of dollars.

Now, what is the incentive for playing? While the competitive golf scene is huge, the sport is highly sought after as a meeting place and community. Not only is there an incentive to play for sports fanatics and competition-lovers, but also to sort out business matters and working out agreements. Of course, the appeal of the game, while versatile, will be lost on those seeking high action and exercise in a sport.

With nobody around for hundreds of feet, a golfer must reckon with his missed shot all alone.
SOURCE: Golf Digest

How does pickleball compare?

As far as practicality, pickleball rocks. The courts are small enough that twelve people could actively play matches within the same 11 meters by 24 meters space. It’s also a highly practical sport for its level playing field. Other sports rely on height, size, and other inherited traits that can out-the-gate grant major advantages.

Accessibility-wise, pickleball takes the cake. Nets can be rolled out onto any tennis or basketball court, with no need for a legit pickleball court or sunny weather. Of course, buying a net, paddles, and/or a membership to play somewhere comes with expenses. Additionally, while it is technically possible to drill alone, pickleball isn’t accessible like basketball in the “all you need is a ball and a hoop” sense. You’re typically going to want at least one other person whenever you go out and play.

Pickleball’s incentive for playing may be the area in which the sport is strongest, contributing to why the sport is growing so fast. Anyone can get a taste of pickleball, which is unlike baseball or golf. Unfamiliar players can show up, no matter how unathletic and inexperienced, and still be able to play a game–whether this is a group of six year-olds or eighty-six year olds. A last incentive for people to play pickleball is one shared with golf: the absence of injury risk. Still, both sports’ are remarkably popular amongst the elderly.

Nets have been set up on indoor basketball courts to make the sport more accessible.

SOURCE: Trib Live

In conclusion, I’d give pickleball an A- “sport” grade. It doesn’t require too much space, and can be played by anyone almost anywhere. However, there are some significant costs involved with paddles, balls, and potentially nets. If you don’t have a partner, there’s not much to do besides practicing your underhand serve. Even then, it’s still more fun than playing golf (graded a generous C+).



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